By Keith Carman
Psychedelic doom metal stalwarts Cathedral have always had a penchant for pushing boundaries. From the fact that they’re a vastly diverse offshoot of grind gurus Napalm Death to their almost comedic tendencies on earlier works (we’re talking “Midnight Mountain” here, folks) and general delight in mulling a particular groove to death, they know how to test patience while still being productive.
That said, even the most devout fan will most likely have to swallow ninth effort The Guessing Game in smaller chunks than the Coventry-based quartet offers it up in. Modestly experimental and incredibly grandiose by their standards, this double album (their first ever) clocks in at an ungodly 80-plus minutes, way more than it should but, hey, it’s Cathedral. You know the fuzz-pedals were particularly gritty one day and writing got out of hand.
Still, of The Guessing Game’s thirteen tracks, few truly drag on and only closer “Journeys Into Jade” dares pass the 10-minute mark so when it boils down—even if the band didn’t bother to boil down much at all—one can’t argue that it isn’t a bold affair. From the slinking, majestic groove of “Painting In The Dark” through “Requiem For The Voiceless,” the quartet is spot-on with shuffling, borderline bluesy grooves and vocalist Lee Dorrian’s inimitable vocals.
Which isn’t to say the album isn’t without its faults. Some tomfoolery and tinkering (synthesizers, strings and general noises/voices) should have been omitted as it does little to bolster the overall music and the band does manage to actually overstate their point/become boring during moments such as the droning out on “The Running Man.” Yet when placed in the context of these timelessly spacey tracks, The Guessing Game does become a grower of an album that earns respect for the concepts it entertains—not always succeeds in delivering—but strives for nonetheless.